Thursday, May 29, 2008

EDM #173 - Draw Something From Memory

I really enjoyed doing this one. I chose to draw my parent's living room from memory. This is also the house where I lived while growing up. I think I got the the furniture right, but I couldn't remember the colors. I know the recliner is brown and the drapes are gold, but I can't remember the color of the walls, carpet, or rocking chair cushion. I used Prismacolor and Copic markers to color in my drawing. The picture below is marker only. I thought the walls were a tad bright, so I added some colored pencil to tone them down. The first picture is the one with colored pencil added. Mom and Dad, you'll need to tell me how much I got right and how much I got wrong. I discovered I love drawing from memory. I am going to do more of it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Illustration Friday - Worry

When I was a child, I worried about bad guys lurking in closets and under the bed. Although I still occasionally worry about these things, I am now more apt to worry about adult concerns such as my job or my children's future. In the comic strip Bloom County, the character Opus stored his anxieties in an anxiety closet. I love the idea of storing my anxieties in a closet, where I can forget about them for a while but also get them out if I really need them.

My older son was interested in alien abduction for a while. One day he informed me he had been abducted by aliens. It turns out he found a web site with a quiz to help readers determine if they are an abductee. One of the questions was: As a child, were you afraid of creatures hiding under the bed or in closets? Aren't all children afraid of these things? Please tell me it is so. Otherwise I can draw only one conclusion ... I am an abductee :-).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Two Friends

Two friends, aboard a small dinghy, adrift with no oars. Are they worried? No. They choose instead to enjoy the beautiful day and ocean breeze. This is an exercise from the book Keys to Drawing with Imagination. The exercise is to suggest a story by combining a drawing from imagination with a realistic drawing. I drew the creature on the right back in December; I conjured him up out of rumpled towels. The person's pose is based on my teen-age son; I sketched him in our pool in a boat over the weekend. (The head is not my son's head.)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

EDM #172 - Draw Something That Sparkles

This is one of our "everyday" crystal goblets. We have a set in clear glass and a set in red glass for the Christmas season. We try to make the family dinner special every day, so we always eat to candlelight and, if we want things to be extra special, we serve sparkling apple cider in crystal goblets to everyone. The kids love it. The numerous small geometric patterns in the glass are challenging. I never tire of drawing this glass-I don't think I'll ever master it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Graphic Novels

I have been drawing a lot of sequences lately, which are closely related to the graphic novel. I discovered the graphic novel about a year ago; I am now a big fan. Before discovering graphic novels, I thought comic books were for kids. Now I know better. Graphic novels for adults are books with strong story lines told in both pictures and words. This posts discusses some graphic novels I have known and loved.

Epileptic by David B. is an autobiography. David B.'s brother has epilepsy, and this novel tells his story growing up in France. His parents focus on his brother as they desperately seek a cure, sometimes putting their faith in charlatans. The novel is compassionate and truthful and never bitter. The pictures are in black and white.

American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar by Harvey Pekar is another autobiography. Pekar, a V.A. (Veterans Affairs) hospital file clerk, uses his mundane, everyday experiences as source material and manages to make them interesting.The black and white drawings are by Robert Crumb, a well-known comic artist. The movie American Splendor is based on this book.

The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar starts when an Algerian rabbi's cat eats the rabbi's parrot. This gives the cat the gift of speech, and the cat has conversations with the rabbi on a broad range of topics including spirituality and human relationships. For example, the cat wants a bar mitzvah. The rabbi says no, a cat can't be Jewish, which leads to a conversation on what differentiates humans from animals. Midway through the book, the cat looses the gift of speech, and the books focuses on the rabbi's family and Jewish, Arab and French culture. Sfar's artwork is colorful and whimsical.

Mouse Guard Volume 1: Fall 1152 by David Petersen tells the story of a band of mouse protectors set in Europe in the middle ages. The artwork looks like watercolors with pen and ink and is awesome. The official site for Mouse Guard is here, where you can see a large selection of art from the book. Unfortunately, the story line is not as strong as the artwork; it did not hold my interest. A graphic novel is a novel, not just pictures. My two boys are big Redwall fans; Redwall is a series of novels by Brian Jacques aimed at upper elementary and middle school children. These novels tell the story of Redwall Abbey, a community of mice set in a medieval England-like place. The Redwall mice battle against villains, typically rats, foxes, ferrets, and the such. Since the subject matter of Mouse Guard is so similar to the Redwall books, I couldn't help but compare them, and Mouse Guard just can't compete with Brian Jacque's story telling skills.

Friday, May 23, 2008


This sequence tells the story of Jawzahr, an ancient Persian dragon. Jawzahr chases the sun and moon around the stars and repeatedly swallows them, causing eclipses. This sequence shows Jawzahr chasing and swallowing the moon. Each scene is 3" x 3". Colored pencil on museum board.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Review - My Kid Could Paint That

I recently watched My Kid Could Paint That, a documentary about child painter Marla Olmstead. Marla, an abstract painter, has been compared to Jackson Pollack. At the time of filming, Marla was 4 years old and was selling paintings for $25,000. Marla was born in 2000 and lives in Binghamton, New York.

This films explores a number of questions:
  • Did Marla create the paintings all by herself?
  • What is abstract art?
  • What is the motivation of the media?
  • What is the motivation of Marla's parents?
At the start of the documentary, film maker Amir Bar-Lev is telling the story of child prodigy Marla Olmstead. During filming, the TV show 60 Minutes does a segment on Marla. 60 Minutes asks Ellen Winner, a child psychologist who studies gifted children, to comment on Marla and her work. Before seeing film from a hidden camera in Marla's house, Winner is very impressed with Marla's work and comments that her work would be right at home in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). But after Winner views the hidden camera footage, she declares that Marla is not a prodigy and probably did not create the paintings by herself. In the footage, you can hear Marla's father coaching and directing Marla (e.g., why don't you use red?). At this point forward in the documentary, Amir Bar-Lev starts to have doubts about the authenticity of the paintings, and the remainder of the documentary is asking "Did Marla create the paintings?" Amir Bar-Lev never comes to a conclusion and allows viewers to make up their own minds.

Do I think Marla painted the pictures by herself? Probably not. The documentary shows Marla mixing mud, and she doesn't seem particularly interested in art or painting. But it doesn't really matter what I or anyone else thinks. If Marla is a prodigy and is destined to become a great painter, she will become one. If she isn't, she won't. In either case, hopefully the pressure of her early success won't destroy her. It must be tough to be a has-been by age 12.

The film also asks "What is abstract art?". Is it amazing that a 4-year old can create abstract art that would fit right in at MOMA? Or is the fact that a 4-year old can create abstract art that would fit right in at MOMA say that there isn't much to abstract art?

The motivation of both the media and Marla's parents is explored. When the media first discovers Marla, she is praised as a child prodigy. After the 60 Minutes piece, she and her parents are torn down. The media always needs fresh and interesting news to keep viewers engaged and keep ratings up. Tearing down a star, hero, or celebrity is good for ratings. Finally, the motivation of Marla's parents needs to be questioned. Do they want the money? The fame? Are they really selflessly promoting Marla for her own good? Does a 4 year old care about all of this?

This film is thought-provoking and enjoyable, and Marla's paintings are pleasing to the eye. I recommend this documentary highly.

Here are some web references:

Child Painter Marla Olmstead, Art News Blog
Marla Olmstead Website, Official Marla Olmstead Website
Marla Olmstead, Wikipedia.
My Kid Could Paint That,
My Kid Could Paint That, Official Sony Pictures Website
New Questions About Child Prodigy, 60 Minutes

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Illustration Friday - Electricity

For the prompt electricity, I created an electric acrobat. Here is a close up of the acrobat.
I created this piece from imagination. After I drew it, the acrobat reminded me of a Replicant in the movie Blade Runner. Here is my favorite quote from the movie:

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams ... glitter in the dark near Tanhauser Gate. All those ... moments will be lost ... in time, like tears ... in rain. Time ... to die. [Roy Batty, a Replicant in Blade Runner]

Are the Battlestar Galactica Cylons related to Replicants?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

If the queen had wheels, she'd be a truck

This drawing illustrates the expression If the queen had wheels, she'd be a truck. My college pal Delia used this expression; she learned it from her little brother William, who lived in Jamaica, Queens at the time.

Just in case you are dying to use this expression in every day speech, here are some examples of correct usage.

Remark: If only I had invested in real estate 10 years ago. I'd be a rich woman today. Response: If the queen had wheels, she'd be a truck.

Remark: If only Al Gore had won Florida in 2000. We wouldn't be in the mess we are in today. Response: If the queen had wheels, she'd be a truck.

Remark: Why did I ever let myself gain 20 pounds? Weight is so hard to loose. If only I had said no to all those snacks. Response: If the queen had wheels, she'd be a truck.

Actually, I've never heard anyone use this expression other than Delia and William. But I have always liked it. It says "face reality, dude" in an attention-getting way. Have you ever heard this expression?

On another note, giving an inanimate object human qualities is hard. After drawing this picture, I have a new respect for the illustrators of Thomas the Tank Engine, Disney's Beauty and The Beast (all of those dancing household objects!), and The Brave Little Toaster movies.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

EDM #169 - Draw a Piece of Cake

This is my first oil painting, apart from one I did in an oil painting class earlier in the year. Last Sunday, my 8 year-old son Christopher and I oil painted together. He painted a dragon's foot, and I painted this piece of cake (fruit tart, to be more specific). We had fun together.

Here is Christopher's dragon's foot. It is the foot of Shen-Lung, the Chinese spiritual dragon who is responsible for making weather. He wants me to tell everyone he didn't use pencil. He didn't draw before he painted.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day, to my mom in New York and to all moms everywhere.

This is a copy of the Mary Cassatt painting Sleepy Baby (1910), shown below. The original painting is in pastel; my copy is in watercolor. I thoroughly enjoyed painting this and learned a lot also.
  • I love Cassatt's use of color. Look at the bright yellow in the baby's neck and hair, and the bright orange in the baby's hair and bottom. Where mother and child touch (cheek-to-cheek and hand-to-bottom), the colors are warm red-oranges, suggesting the love of a mother for her child. These colors probably were not present in reality. Rather, Cassatt added color to convey her interpretation of reality.
  • Even though the colors in the mother and child are all light, there are still distinct value changes. For example, to clearly separate the child's arms from the mother's skin, the values of the child's arms need to be different from the values of the mother's chest and arm.
  • Many of the cooler shadows are blue, which gave me a little trouble. I was using Yellow Ochre and Blue Cerulean, which mix to green (e.g., the baby' chest). A moldy baby is not good! I need to research how to use blue and yellow in watercolor without getting green.

I am going to do more master copies ... it is fun and educational.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Drawings Revealed

I try to draw at least 15 minutes a day, no matter how little time I have or how tired I am. Last week, I was really, really tired, so all I could manage was doodles. In these drawings, I made random marks on the paper until a drawing revealed itself to me. I pretended I was a seer reading tea leaves. If a picture did not immediately reveal itself, I would worry I was loosing the gift of sight. But the worry was for naught. A picture always emerges.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Illustration Friday - Seed

The first thing that popped into my head for this prompt was Seeds of Change. A person can be a seed of a change. As I was painting Barack Obama, the 1963 Bob Dylan song The Times They Are A-Changin' ran through my head:

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Thursday, May 1, 2008